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Advice for Getting a Video Game Programming Position: Have a Demo

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I saw this article at Slashdot: Why the New Guy Can’t Code. The part about having something you made yourself applies greatly to the video game industry. It is hard to get your first job in the video game industry. There are a lot more people who want in than there are positions, and everyone wants people with at least one title shipped. This is why having a simple game or a mod you’ve made yourself is invaluable. In fact, I think this is the biggest advantage of getting a video game degree over a standard computer science degree. Any decent video game programming degree is going to require that you make some games.   Showing these proves you can indeed program. You’re going to need that edge when you’re in a pool of hundreds of possible candidates.

I still recommend a standard computer science degree over a video game degree. However, you do need to go the extra mile and make your demo software, even if it isn’t part of one of your classes. There are a few reasons I still feel this is the best path. First, as I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of competition for the existing jobs. You might not be able to land one of the video game jobs, or you may need to find an intermediate job until you do find the job you’re looking for. Most other industries will take a computer science degree much more seriously than video games degree. Second, the video game industry can really burn someone out. You tend to spend a lot of overtime and weekends on these projects and you don’t always get a break in between. The scope of games and the size of the teams needed to create them have been growing dramatically. Unfortunately, methods for managing these projects are lagging behind. These projects are frequently chaotic. If you eventually decide the chaos and long hours aren’t for you, a computer science degree will look better on your resume. Third, a computer science degree lends itself more naturally to going for a software engineering degree (although you could go this route with a video games degree), which has turned out to be much more useful than I originally expected.

To get back on point though, no matter what route you choose, make a demo. This will show that you have passion for the job you’re applying for, it will show that you can do the job you’re applying for, and will hopefully show that you can do the job your applying for better than the other candidates.



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